Monday, October 31, 2022

S&C: October 29 & 30 - Emotional Damage

A picture from late August/early September of Pale Foot with some of the Cheep Cheeps poking out from under her.

Instead of relaxing in bed all day on Saturday, I ended up fighting off near constant chicken incursions. Partner and a friend spent the whole day on another area of the property clearing off and hauling out old pig pens, water tanks, and various other farm scrap.

The entire flock has learned that Partner and I keep our own personal stash of food for our chickens. Our stash is intended for our personal chickens, and there is a stash in the office that we feed the wild flock from. When the stash in the office has run low or out, we've occasionally fed the entire flock from our stash. This past week, however, we haven't been able to replenish the office stash and the local pet supply store has not been doing a good job of keeping a stock of the chicken feed Partner and I use. 

Since the wild flock gets most of their food from free roaming, we've had to cut back on feeding the wild flock in the mornings and instead just make sure our personal chickens are fed in their coops and bins before we let them out for the day. That normally works, and the wild flock will stick to 'their' area of the property while our chickens hang out around our caravan.

With Partner and Friend in the area the wild flock usually forage, however, everybody was pushed towards our caravan and thus they heard and saw whenever I left the caravan to tend to our flock.

So that was fun. And I do genuinely mean fun. At one point I had Crumble perched on my back while 9 cheep cheeps and 3 other fully grown chickens were strutting around the entryway carpet, bok-boking at me incessantly for food while I tried to gently usher them back outside. Nobody was being mean, and nobody left any extreme messes in their wake, so I really just got to force some extra snuggles upon select chickens.

Since the weather is getting warmer, I have to keep a closer eye on everybody's water and refill their containers at least once a day. Doing that, and periodically checking on everybody's whereabouts has brought me into the territory of a local Willie Wagtail, which is where the video below came from.

Besides the semi-mandatory chicken tending duties, I've really failed at giving myself a moment to decompress and tend to my needs. For as long as I can remember, I have always struggled with food if I'm under any amount of stress. After a big move, I struggle to want to eat. I feel nauseous whenever I do eat. I no longer listen to or even notice normal signs of hunger, as food becomes the last thing on my mind. Other causes of stress have this same effect. Since I've been so stressed about the weather and the chickens' health, I've done a poor job of keeping an eye on myself. Oopsie.

So I gave myself a day off on Sunday and had fun organizing and decorating my houses in UO. I didn't get as much done as I wanted to, but I've definitely made progress and I think I'm going to put more time into decorating over the next few days, just to get myself more into the holiday spirit and let my body take a break from walking around in the sun all day with no sunscreen.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Stop & Chat: October 28 - High Highs, Low Lows

The rest of the 27th went about as well as I expected it to. I ended up spending the day outside with the flock. That's where this adorable picture above came from. I was sitting on the Great Wall watching the flock and Kookie and Crumble came and pancaked next to me. I spent a decent portion of my time with the flock loving on these two and telling them how beautiful and adorable they are.

I still can't believe Crumble as gotten so big!!

Friday started off good. We woke up, fed and released the flock, and refilled water. I showered and started on that last load of laundry I refused to touch the day before. Kookie screeched at the door to be let in for Lap Snuggles and egg laying. I got some UO time in.

At 11:45, Kookie still hadn't laid her egg and had started screeching to be let out to explore the world. I was a bit annoyed at her, as I could feel the egg and I knew she would come right back to the door to ask to be let in. I figured she knew best, though, and let her out and went to go hang laundry.

I then started working on blog posts and commenting, in between throwing down Halloween decorations in my UO houses.

It's not anything special, but at least I have a little bit of the Halloween spirit! 

Before I get into this next part, I need to emphasize that EVERYTHING TURNED OUT OKAY. Just to preemptively save your emotions.
At about 1 pm I heard Crumble's distinctive honking sounds. This alarmed me for a few reasons. 1. they were his distressed honks, and 2. they were coming from an area of the property he has never been in before: the sheds where the wild flock roost at night.

I scurried over there and found him on a pile of hay, honking his head off. Since I've experienced this before with Coffee, I knew without seeing the cause that Crumble had decided to chase a hen over and got cut off by a protective rooster. So I grabbed him and brought him back to where I knew Kookie would be, around the caravan.

The only issue was, Kookie wasn't around. I couldn't find her. This immediately alarmed me, as Kookie is not an explorer. She is always either within sight of the caravan, dust bathing under the caravan, or chilling on the steps waiting for the door to open so she can sneak in and torment us with her love. So I started looking for her. 
There was no sign of her. I couldn't hear her. I couldn't see her. She didn't run over at the sound of my voice, or at the sight of me crouching down to check under places. Normally even if I can't see her, she will run over if she sees one of us crouching because crouching = Lap Time, whether we want it to be or not.
I roasted myself alive in the Australian sun for three hours thoroughly searching through each and every place I could think of looking for her. After about an hour and a half, I started crying. She never disappears for this long. Especially since I knew she needed to lay an egg, and she always lays her eggs inside in her bin. She should be at the door screaming at me to let her inside by now. My goal shifted from finding my chicken, to finding my chicken's body so I could at least get some closure.

As 4:00 rolled around, I tried to distract myself from my misery by going to pull down the laundry. As I opened the garage door, I noticed a face out of the corner of my eye that I would recognize anywhere peeking out from behind one of the chairs on the porch.

Poor Kookie had spent a good portion of the hot day stuck behind this chair and hidden behind the metal cart, which originally was closer to the chair and completely hid her from sight unless you happened to catch the one angle that let you see her.

She was dehydrated and seemed unsteady on her feet, so I took her over to the water container and helped her keep her balance while she drank and drank and drank. After she was done drinking, she seemed a lot more stable. I moved her inside to the bin anyway to keep an eye on her, and added some ice cubes to her water to help her cool down. When I checked on her a few minutes later, she was happily foraging around and even gave her normal happy trill at the sight of me. I was initially worried that whatever happened when she got stuck could have broken that egg inside her, and that she was in great danger. I ended up finding the egg where she was stuck, though, and she's had normal bowel movements since then, so those fears have been abated.

The rest of the day was a wash. I had intended to mop the floors and do some more Spring cleaning before the incident happened, but I was too emotionally and physically exhausted. Partner got home from work relieved to see a happy, healthy Kookie (I had kept him up to date throughout the whole ordeal), and he helped me put the chickens to bed when their bedtime came. After that, I laid in bed with extreme nausea and a migraine that kept me from falling asleep to escape my body's response to the day. Instead of that 'oh no I'm falling!' feeling some people experience as they fall asleep, I was hit with 'I hear a chicken screaming in fear and terror!' When I could fall asleep, I was plagued with nightmares about those I love being hurt or dying in various horrible ways. 

So today I'm planning for an easy day in bed. Kookie is perfectly fine today, as is the rest of the flock. I did make a point to come here and write what I could about yesterday while the memories are fresh, but I'm still nauseous and my head is screaming so I'm sure I haven't said everything I wanted to say about the situation. 

Here's hoping your Friday & Saturday go better than mine!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Stop & Chat: October 14-27 - Not Enough Time

Hanging out with chickens is good for mental health and chicken bonding time!
Farm life is exhausting. If there isn't one thing, there's another. Partner and I have a running joke that whenever we 'clear' the caravan of long term chicken residents that it's a perfect opportunity for more chickens to come through the house. Each and every time we've finally moved a group of chickens outside, something has happened and we've ended up with chickens inside again.
As we were getting ready to move Kookie and Coffee (siblings; Coffee died in May so he's not mentioned much any more) outside, Tan Mom from the wild flock disappeared and her 7 remaining week old babies needed someone to care for them. That group of chickens is called the Babies. I ended up holding off on moving Kookie and Crumble into an outside night time coop because I was afraid of something getting them while they were still very small.
When the Babies were about 7 weeks old, we moved them to a coop outside so they could have more space. Unfortunately, a carpet python ate three of them. The morning I discovered the snake, I brought the four survivors inside again. That same week, the February/March 2022 floods hit, and any plans we had for moving our chickens into coops outside got put indefinitely on hold.
In April, we got Kookie and Coffee outside into the coop. Since Coffee was in his horny rooster bully months, I couldn't introduce the Babies to the coop. That did leave an empty space inside the caravan, however, for a string of chickens from the wild flock to come through. We had a couple of injured young pullets and cockerels that needed to be put in a hospital bin inside while we tended to their wounds and nursed them back to health.

In May, Coffee died rather suddenly, and we were left with a very needy Kookie. At the time, Kookie only recognized Coffee, Partner, or I as 'her flock' and she became very needy of our attention without Coffee to keep her company. After a few weeks, I was able to get her to socialize with the wild members of the flock and get her moved into her own coop to sleep at night.

In June Kookie went broody, and I was finally able to move the Babies into the coop and reclaim our caravan for humans. Mid June-early July is the longest we've gone since December without any poultry in our caravan. Of course, that didn't last long as once Kookie's single baby, Crumble, hatched, we had to move the two of them inside into a large bin for Crumble's protection. It was Kookie's first time being a momma, after all, and it was the middle of winter. It was too cold for little Crumble to be free roaming outside with Kookie. 

Side note: being able to watch a chick and mother hen when the mother absolutely trusts you is a treasure of an experience. 

My partner (blue crown icon) knows me so well.

At the end of July, while we still had Kookie and Crumble inside, one of the wild roosters got himself wedged between a palm tree and the side fencing of the house. He ended up with a pretty nasty looking eye and his sense of balance and direction seemed to be completely missing. We took him in and tried nursing him back to health. His eye healed okay, but his balance seems to be permanently affected. We tried releasing him back into the wild flock, but the other roosters bully him relentlessly until he gets stuck or finds a corner to hide in. 

As we were nursing him back to health, he earned the nickname Roostyboi (we're so creative...) and we became very attached to his majestic plumage and gentle disposition.

I mean, just look at that sweet face. 

We've ended up figuring out a living situation for Roostyboi that he seems happy with. At night, he goes into the coop with the Babies. When we let the Babies out in the morning, we grab Roostyboi and put him in one of the chicken tractors (a mobile coop on wheels) with the flock. That way he gets interaction with the flock and he remains protected from bully roosters. At the end of the day, we grab him and have ourselves a little snuggle before putting him back in the coop.

As far as either of us can tell, Roostyboi is happy with this setup. The only time I've seen him act like he doesn't like his tractor coop and wants out is at the end of the day, when he wants to go to his night time roost. He even gets friends keeping him company; young chicks can easily squeeze their way into the coop to say hi to him.

In August, I took to putting Kookie and Crumble in the chicken tractor with Roostyboi if I wasn't going to supervise their free range time. This kept Roostyboi company and let Crumble get integrated into the flock without them bullying him too much. It also got Kookie re-integrated into the flock, as she had been mostly absent for the better part of two months.

In September, we took in 22 chicks after their mother was carried off by some predator in the early hours of the morning. All we could find of her was a trail of feathers leading off the property. Their mother, who we had called Pale Foot, was a wild hen I had watched grow up and formed a decently friendly bond with. She would always bring the babies over to me to grab any food I offered her, and I spent many hours sitting next to her and telling her how gorgeous all of her babies are.


 The now-21 chicks, who we call Cheep Cheeps, have finally reached a size where I'm comfortable letting them free roam during the day. It's not an ideal situation, but we don't have a secure chicken run to keep them in and the coop/bin is far too small to let them sit in there unless they're just sleeping. Putting them to bed is easy; I just open the caravan door and they come filing in and let me transfer them to their bin.


I went on a huge tangent. I was supposed to write about what's been happening, and instead I'm just talking about chickens LOL.

I believe in my last post I mentioned I had picked up some sort of stomach bug. That bug plagued me for several days before I started feeling human again. Then, as my bodily functions were returning to normal, my period decided to come early and further plague me. Unfortunately, I also gave whatever the bug was to Partner, and he spent about a week feeling pretty awful as well. We're both not at 100%, but we feel a whole lot better.  

On the 8th, we finally managed to capture String Foot. String Foot is a peahen that has lived at the property since before we moved here. She's had a clump of string knotted tightly around one of her ankles that we've wanted to remove to make her life easier. The only issue is, she is a very very agile bird and all of our efforts to capture her have failed. On this day, she happened to go into Roostyboi's daytime coop after I put him away. That made the capture process a lot easier: just close the door. From there, it was just a matter of grabbing her foot and keeping her as calm as possible while we cut and removed the string. To her credit, once we grabbed her foot she ended up just laying down and staring around. She didn't fight us at all, even when we discovered a good portion of her leg had grown around the string and had to get a bit rougher to remove said string.

Since her string removal, String Foot has gotten a lot more friendly with us. She hangs out by the caravan all day, and consistently gets close enough for us to reach out and touch her. I'd like to think that to some extent, she seems to realize that we were trying to help her. In any case, she's putting a lot more weight on that leg and the wound is healing beautifully. We don't think she'll ever regain full range of motion for that foot and leg, but hopefully she feels a lot better without a string buried in her skin.

I scrubbed and power washed the house porch this weekend. The flock loves hanging out on the porch during the day, which leaves the porch covered in poop and feathers quite easily. I don't normally care, as we barely use the porch, but the clothesline is also on the porch area. Hanging laundry while dodging stink bombs isn't fun, so every so often we clean the porch off to save my poor shoes from poop. 

I also got us mostly caught up on laundry. This is something I'm not quite sure I'll ever get used to in Australia. By and large, people just don't have dryers. Us included. They're energy hogs, and why would you use a machine to dry your clothes when Australia has perfectly good sun to dry your clothes for you?

The only issue is the sun bleaches my clothes, and I hate hanging up wet laundry with a fiery passion that burns in my soul. I'm truly spoiled. Why should I have to lug all these clothes and hang them up myself when I could just toss them into a dryer that'll do the job for me?! It's so much faster and easier!

Another thing that sucks is the weather. We've been in a La Niña and are projected to continue to be in La Niña over the next summer, which brings very wet weather. Wet weather is not conducive to drying clothes on a line. I hate feeling like I'm beholden to the weather on doing laundry. I did just a fine job keeping on top of laundry in America without having to factor in the weather. Now it feels like every time we get a smidge of decent weather, I'm tied to the washing machine and clotheslines as I need to be able to hang the laundry ASAP to prevent a moldy smell. Then I need to be around to pull down the clothes as soon as they're dry, since stormy weather is always a moment's notice away. Even today, as I'm typing this, we have linens that need washed and dried. We have awful weather coming later today, but right now is pretty sunny and decent. Do I wash more linens now, even though I'm still in a bad mood after folding and washing multiple loads of laundry and linens yesterday just to catch up on laundry that couldn't get done because of the weather?

We've entered the part of the year where the weather is unbearable. If it's not wet and so humid your clothes feel damp, it's unbearably hot. Yesterday while I was folding laundry it got up to 85F/29C. I know it gets hotter in Texas, for instance, but I need to emphasize that Australian construction is not to the same standards as American construction. Houses don't have double-pane windows to keep temperatures stable inside. Structures aren't built for temperature regulation because for the longest time it wasn't needed; the weather in most of settled Australia has always been relatively pleasant year round. AC in homes is also not used in the same way it is in America. So when I say it got to 85 degrees, I mean the temperature inside our own home got to at least 85 degrees. Whether we were in a caravan or a proper house, the temperature would be unbearable.

The same thing happens in the winter. In immigration and expat forums, I've read about many people coming from incredibly cold climates saying that they've never been as cold as they have in an Australian home in winter. I know that for myself, I end up wearing fingerless gloves all the time just so my hands maintain enough heat to function. That's just for doing stuff around the house!

My point is, I'm a very very spoiled American who will find any excuse to complain that she can. LOL

While I was feeling sick, my trusty keyboard finally gave out on me. At least my 'a' and 'q' keys did. So I ordered another keyboard that I'm still getting used to. That was money I didn't want to spend, but I'm rather particular about having a fully functioning keyboard and I've gotten spoiled by the quality of higher end keyboards. This one only cost me about $88 USD shipped, so here's hoping I get at least six years out of this keyboard like I got out of my last one.

This morning Dave found a dead rooster under the big tree the peafowl sleep in at night. This rooster was one of the wild fully grown roosters that has been here longer than we have. I checked his body over, and didn't see anything untoward about him. No injuries, no blood. It looks like he just curled up and died. Yet another mystery that we have to live with. Was it old age? Did he get into some sort of toxic chemical? We found a tomato plant nearby, and we know any plant in the night shade family is toxic to chickens, so maybe he got into that. Given how these chickens are notorious for eating anything they can fit in their mouth, I wouldn't be surprised if the rooster found the tomato plant and decided to eat the green parts. In any case, I'll be keeping an eye on the flock for any signs of some sort of disease that puts everybody at risk.

Back to why I don't have enough time. The chickens take up quite a lot of my free time, and the rest of my time has to be split between household caretaking tasks and whatever hobbies I'm currently interested in. There are a lot of Halloween themed things going on in UO, and I just don't have the time to participate in most of the activities because something chicken related always pulls me away from the keyboard. On those days where I could sit and play video games, I end up convincing myself that I need to do some household chore instead. Yesterday it was laundry and cleaning the floors. Due to the temperature, I was only able to get laundry done. Mopping the floors of a small space takes up a surprising amount of time. I end up having to do the floor in small sections while I move furniture around, and I have to wait for each section to dry off before I can move the furniture further to get to sections I haven't cleaned yet. 

When the weather is good and I've done all of the chores I've convinced myself I should do, I still opt to spend time with the chickens instead of working on any of my hobbies. I guess chicken keeping could be considered a hobby, but I've never been at a place where my own personal interests are conflicting with each other in time usage. In older days, when I was exhausted from whatever events that day brought me, I still would have the time and energy to sit at the computer after dark and write about my adventures and/or relax with some video games. Here, I just don't have the energy after dark. Once I put the chickens to bed I just want to relax with Partner and watch whatever movie or TV show we're working through. Even right now as I type this, the temperature climbs towards 80, and with that all my enthusiasm about sitting at the computer and typing is waning. I could use this bout of sunny weather to sit outside with the chickens and reinforce the relationships I've built with each individual chicken. For instance, Kookie is a Lap Chicken. She loves chilling in our laps. It would be cruel to continue to deprive her of Lap Time since the weather is so great! And the Cheep Cheeps need to be secure in knowing that Partner and I are safe, so spending time outside with them and loving on them is good to reinforce that positive relationship. The wild flock has also gotten incredibly tame through me just being outside with them and surrounding myself with chickens. 

I've taken so long to write this I've forgotten half of what I wanted to say. I think I'll just post this and include anything I forgot in later posts. I hope everything is going well in your corner of the world and you aren't dealing with poor weather!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Stop & Chat: October 3-13 - Chicken Tending

Snakes have simply become a fact of life for us here. At one point there was a resident carpet python that was a few meters long and hung out in Partner's office. On one hand, the rodent population definitely went down. On the other, the snake could very well turn and eat any baby chicks or peafowl we have running around the property. We've had some chicks we took in become a victim of a phython attack. Yet another thing I need to blog about eventually to get this space caught up. 

I did end up making that pancit. It was a smash hit and I've been encouraged to add the recipe to my personal repertoire of dishes I like to make. The noodles weren't quite the right consistency I associate with my mom and grandma's pancit, so I'll tinker with it a little more to see if I can improve upon it.

Chicken drama is getting extreme. There's a wild hen that has ginger feathers - the only fully grown chicken on the property with that coloration - that we've nicknamed Ginger Hen. She has one baby left from her first broody cycle. She decided to start roosting with the rest of the flock before her little chick could get up to the roosts with her, so for a few nights Partner and I had to go out and capture the chick to return it to momma. The chick has since then figured out how to join its mom all on its own, so we no longer have to spend our evenings running after a surprisingly agile little chicken. :)

Kookie's case of maybe-bumblefoot is... I don't even know. Her and Crumble keep working together to remove her foot bandage whenever we manage to get a secure wrapping on. It doesn't look infected any more, but I'd still prefer it if she could keep a bandage on it and stop trying to reintroduce bad bacteria to her foot.

The Cheep Cheeps have started breaking out of their sleeping bin before we're ready to let them out for the day. That has made for some funny surprises when we walk by their bin in the mornings to use the restroom and get ready for the day. Fingers crossed, we should be able to start working on their permanent coop any day now with. Weather cooperating. Sigh.

This time Scruffy has decided to try and go broody. I was a bit lazy in collecting the eggs in their coop between bad weather and catching some sort of stomach bug, so there were quite a few eggs she was determined to hatch. While I moved her off the nest and took the eggs she sat like this and stared angrily at me.

I decided to take this opportunity and do some other cleaning and tidying of their coop. As I did that, Scruff went to stare at her empty nest for a moment before screeching at my face for removing her eggs. Poor girl. I'm sorry, but being broody isn't allowed. No more chicks!

In between all of the chicken drama I've been slowly updating my UO blog, playing more UO, and working on some posts for this blog. I have one that I'm struggling with, but I can't seem to bring myself to work on anything else until that post is done. 

I've started making sure my nicer camera battery is charged whenever I think about it. The weather hasn't been conducive to nicer pictures, but it's ready to go for the day the sun comes out.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Stop & Chat: September 29-Oct 2


No current pictures to share of the past few days, so enjoy this picture of Kookie (left) and Crumble (right) from a month ago! 

This week the weather hit again. Storm clouds have been constantly rolling in and out of town, bringing an uncomfortable amount of rain with it and many indoor days. I used to really love stormy weather. It was a perfect excuse to stay inside and read a book or play some video games. Ever since the floods earlier this year, a cloudy sky brings with it a ball of anxiety in my chest. The rain pooling on the ground sends me checking the local emergency channels for flood watches. The waterway at the back rising up makes me do a mental inventory of all of our 'get out of dodge' essentials. Another La Niña being declared for this year alongside other oceanic conditions north and west of Australia paint another wet summer. We got lucky this year, but while it was still flooding there were many times we were faced with the real possibility of losing everything. I recount the floods to friends and family back home as something much more humorous than it felt at the time. Yes, we were making jokes and laughing while in the thick of it, but that was our way of coping through a very real, very stressful time in our lives. We live close to a tidal river, too, so a day with the water lapping at our bottom steps had us stressed about what high tide would bring.

So, as a distraction, I made sure all of the chickens were okay to the best of my ability and then I threw myself into some video games. 

We've been slowly spring cleaning the place when weather allows. Deep cleaning cupboards we haven't gone through in a while. I finally started the painting process in the bathroom a few weeks back. We need more paint, and you can tell when you look closely that it's not a perfect paint job, but overall that area already looks a lot better. Who knows when the weather will clear up enough for me to finish the bathroom, much less the rest of the place. Since going outside tracks mud everywhere we've resigned ourselves to dirty floors until the weather clears up a bit. We try not to wear our shoes indoors, but it's rather hard when you just need a quick thing from inside and it'll be faster to just grab it as opposed to taking the time to remove my shoes, grabbing the item, putting my shoes back on and bundling up, then heading out.

I'll probably get around to more commenting and reading in the next few days since some things I've neglected around the house (like dishes... sigh) really need to be finished. I may end up making some pancit. My partner has never had it before, so I'm excited to share it with him.